By Barney L. Keith
A cardinal point of emphasis concerning the Holy Spirit is that he speaks. There are at least two reasons for stressing this fact. (1) Many conceive of the Holy Spirit as an "It" which produces certain feelings or exhilarating sensations that are said to be "better felt than told." From this misconception comes the false notion that "you can just feel the Spirit moving in their services." (2) Also, referring to the "speaking Spirit' puts emphasis on the intelligent, rational personality of the Holy Spirit who has communicated God's will to men in intelligible language.
Some Pertinent Passages
Jesus informed the twelve as they went forth on the "limited commission" that "it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you" (Matt. 10:20). Jesus told his apostles that when the promised Comforter, the Holy Spirit, should come, "He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak" (John 16:13). On Pentecost the Spirit-baptized apostles "began to speak . . . as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). "The Spirit speaketh expressly," Paul affirmed (1 Tim. 4:1). The Spirit said certain things to Philip (Acts 8:29), and he said things to Peter (Acts 10:19, emphasis by BLK). Nothing is said about making these "feel" a certain way. Let it be noted again that the Holy Spirit is seen in the New Testament to be indeed the speaking Spirit.
Of What Has The Spirit Spoken?
It can be correctly stated that the Holy Spirit has spoken everything men need to know about their spiritual condition and needs. "All things that pertain to life and godliness" is an appropriate summary of what he has spoken (2 Pet. 1:4), but we shall consider only a few of these briefly.
Jesus As Messiah
He has spoken about Jesus as the Messiah. "But when the Comforter is come ... even the Spirit of truth, he shall testify of me," Jesus said (John 15:26). In fact, long before Jesus came to earth, the Holy Spirit, through the prophets, had spoken explicit things about him - things which were fulfilled in detail in the life of Jesus (see 1 Pet. 1:10- 12 and Rom. 1:1-4). The scores of fulfilled Messianic prophecies constitute irrefutable proof of the Deity and Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Gospel Of Saving Grace
He has spoken about the marvelous grace of God - grace that moved the Holy One who had created men to show saving compassion to the very ones who had offended him by their sins and who were worthy of death (Rom. 3:23; 5:6-9; 6:23). The Holy Spirit spoke the gospel plan of salvation to a lost, undeserving world through the inspired men of the first century. On Pentecost (Acts 2) it is clear that those who were saved that day were saved because they had heard what the Spirit spoke through Peter. "When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:37). Here is the true explanation of how the Holy Spirit works in convicting and converting the lost. It is by his word! It is the Spirit's word that produces faith (Rom. 10:17). It is his word that shows men how they can be born again (1 Pet. 1:22,23,25). No direct operation by the Spirit on the sinner's heart is involved. It is by that same word that the Holy Spirit still appeals to men.
The Lord's Church
The Spirit has spoken about that great assembly of redeemed, the church of Jesus Christ. The Spirit specified that the church was "according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:10,11). It is not only ironic, but also sinful, for anyone to ridicule the church or to denigrate its role in God's plan for the reconciliation of sinners. Especially is this the case since the Holy Spirit has spoken in precise terms about the church Jesus built, purchasing it with his own blood (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25). In the Spirit's speaking can be found the perfect pattern by which it was built, and by which it can be identified even today; The many religious denominational bodies conceived in human minds came long after Jesus had created his blood-purchased body, the church. Men should be satisfied with what the Spirit has spoken about the one body of Christ.
Warnings About Apostasy
The Spirit has spoken about the possibility and the certainty of apostasy from the original pattern Christ gave. Paul warned some elders that "grievous wolves" would enter among them, stating also that "of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29,30). The Spirit gave the Thessalonian church a word picture of the blatant blasphemy that would come about "in the temple of God" by the usurpation of authority by lawless forces (2 Thess. 2:3-7). Widespread digression set in rather early. Incipient forms of Catholicism became visible. Wholesale apostasy became rampant. Digression from the New Testament pattern is always to be resisted by the faithful. The Digression that is evident in our own day will be halted only when digressing people return to the Spirit's word.
The Christian's Lifestyle
The Spirit has spoken about the Christian's manner of life. He has said it is to be conducted "soberly, righteously and godly in this present world" (Tit. 2:12). He has said that such things as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, drunkenness and others are "works of the flesh" (Gal. 5:19-21). "They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God," he has said. Rather the Spirit has called us to produce the "fruit of the Spirit" - such things as love, joy, peace, longsuffering and kindness (Gal. 5:22). He has exhorted Christians to "let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27). How shameful then are the inroads made by worldly lifestyles into the Lord's congregations. Only when more disciples truly become the "light of the world" and "salt of the earth" can such erosion of morality and spirituality be halted (Matt. 5:13-16).
The Importance of Listening to the Spirit
Nothing that the Holy Spirit has spoken is unimportant. Anything beyond what he has spoken is a perversion of truth (Gal. 1:69). Since he has revealed everything men need for salvation, our hearts should be full of gratitude. Our lives should be demonstrations of joyous obedience to his message. We need to remember, too, that the Spirit has spoken about the eternal home of the soul, heaven. Our only hope of reaching heaven is to listen to the Spirit, learn from his speaking, and obey from the heart his word. His description of heaven with its surpassing beauty and its never ending blessedness for the redeemed should evoke in every sensitive heart a strong desire to go there. May all of us listen to the speaking Spirit.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 6, pp. 161, 183
March 15, 1990